How do you spell “explaiannnaitiuun”…?
Perhaps his rule doesn’t apply to “tricks” that would barely fool a 5-year-old.
An unexplained illusion is like a play that’s missing its third act.
In fairness to Henderson, he does distinguish (on the Genii Forum) between merely tipping a secret – which BB seems to do quite frequently – and actually teaching a trick – how to perform it, subtleties to strengthen the method, tools for creating more astonishment, and so on. I think this video clearly falls into the latter category.
Also, this is barely a trick; more of a novelty that doesn’t withstand serious scrutiny. It’s just good enough that a non-magician (potential paying customer) can have fun with it but also lame enough that no serious magician (including Henderson) would use it in their act unless it was merely a jumping-off point for further, deeper mysteries.
Wish I could remember who to credit, but to my everlasting shame I am bad with names. I do however remember someone saying that being a magician or doing magic tricks is like saying “I have poor social skills, but I have learned a trick to distract you from that.”
I do remember the Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain having some antipathy towards magicians, but I don’t think that exact quote was his.
Austinites: I want to add that while Henderson may come off in the Genii Forums as a pretentious scold he is a wonderful and very highly regarded close-up entertainer – should you happen to need one for your next event…
Where has Boing Boing “merely tipped a secret?” You say we do it “quite frequently.” If we really have, I want to correct that immediately because I don’t want to tip secrets. I want to get people excited about the art of magic.
The reference to the “one-way” aspect of a deck, references to strippers, marked cards, that sort of thing. Also, that how to make a Dancing Cane post (not that I cared; I HATE the Dancing Cane). Unfortunately, BB’s search feature is lame and doesn’t return very comprehensive results so I can’t just pull them up.
Magicians in general get a bit skeevy about any discussion of methods in a public forum. The deeper argument is that BB often presents magic in the “buy a trick, become a magician” formula that greatly misrepresents the deep thinking and performance skill that goes into doing good magic. Those “here’s a fun simple trick anyone can do!” posts actually encourage the idea that magic is easy. Tricks done by inexperienced magicians are generally boring and often pointless. We might find it cute when our kids perform them (like it’s cute when 9-year-olds act in school plays) but the truth is magic is a very, VERY hard art to get right.
Plus, correct me if I’m wrong but as I noted above, all those “here’s a simple magic trick” posts are actually affiliate links pointing to products for which BB gets a cut. I’ve been extremely distressed to see the commodification of my eyeballs more and more at BB.
I should note to your credit that BB also posts wonderful deep magic-related essays (the Erdnase post, Buscema’s stuff, and more) and pointers to truly outstanding performances (many submitted by yours truly). So I’m not anti-BB or anti-magic on BB; I know you guys are a major voice promoting great magic. I just wish you had a bit more discrimination about some of what you post.
None of this was us merely tipping a secret. It was teaching or sharing an illusion that people generally already have a great understanding of. Don’t tell me I’m giving away the secret to linking rings! That insults the intelligence of the boing boing audience. This is one really smart group.
I would say that more people have seen and know that string is how the dancing cane works, than have ever seen this “business card” trick. It is fairly unique and rather rarely presented, in my experience.
The difference in view from Genii to here is that we delight in the how and why something works, as much as we do in the study and training and preparation for performance. Protecting the “secret” on public domain things is not us. Come on – who doesn’t know the dancing cane uses a string? If you can read boing boing, you know these things. If I ruined anyones delight in the dancing cane, by offering some tips based on my experiential knocking in the head with a walking cane, I am really surprised. The great thing about the dancing cane is, it is so absurdly simple I bet someone amazing can do a really funny, clever routine with it. The fact that we all know its string is why it’d work.
I completely respect the time and energy that goes into perfecting the display of an illusion. That is not ruined by understanding how a magnet works.
I used to be the guy, after a show, who’d say “I know how you did that!” or “You almost had me fooled but!” as I had to figure it out and let you know I had. A lovely woman I met once opened my eyes to the effort and art that went into presenting this art. That I should watch for the art instead of watching for the “trick” was an amazing change – I miss her.
Now I say “That was amazing!” and “Wow! You really must have put a LOT of time into that! It is incredible!”
Surprisingly I have gained a lot of really fantastic magician friends.
I do not ask how they do their stage illusions, I do not care. I would never reveal their work. The stuff we’re sharing here on boing boing is little more than cracker jack toy surprises. The illusions and tricks interest people and are a pleasure for Happy Mutants to play with, not working stage magicians bread and butter.
Lol, most of the secrets of magic are little more than “cracker jack toy surprises,” often diabolically applied. Hence that classic Steinmeyer quote (I’m paraphrasing): “The biggest secret to magic is that magicians guard an empty safe.”
Somehow this reminds me of Cory’s quote “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”
The problem for magicians isn’t that people are learning all the secrets behind their illusions. It’s that people don’t care about illusions at all. Anything you can do to increase people’s interest in magic is worthwhile, even if it means giving something away.
I think Penn & Teller’s show “Fool Us” is the gold standard for exposing (in a good way) younger and even more established magicians to a wider audience.
I just watched an episode and it was great fun. Teller did his shadow routine. I have an inkling how it’s done, but the art of the thing is undeniable. I would not feel slighted to know more, and I don’t really care enough to go and find out.
The mentalist on that episode, Paul Vigil, was very good.
I’d like to thank the editors here for posting a link to my video and for
speaking of me so kindly, especially since our introduction has been through my
heated exchanges with fellow magicians. Second, I’d like to thank everyone who
has pointed out the typo in the video. I am aware of it, and have been for some
time. I realize it makes me look illiterate. And while I can read and write, I
am illiterate in the ways of video editing. What can I say; I spent all my life
practicing card tricks! I haven’t followed through with my video guy, so it’s
my fault. I appreciate you calling my attention to it. Eventually, it will get
fixed. (I hope.)
I would like to make it clear, that I have no problem with people teaching
others how to perform magic. In fact, I have spent the past 26 years of my life
teaching magic to young people at summer camps throughout the Northeast.
The idea that only some people should be allowed to learn magic is also
something never advocated by me or any other person I know. But, as happens in
internet arguments, people throw out crazy straw men and sometimes just can’t
stop trying to stand them up.
My goal, through my performance, writing, and teaching, is to encourage an
appreciation of magic as an art. Now, I realize, some people may scoff at the
idea of magic as an art, but just as there are bad dancers, and bad singers,
and bad comedians in the world, there are bad magicians. And as there are not
many magicians in the world, compared to singers and dancers and comics, the
likelihood of encountering a great one, for most people, is slim. So, if you
are one of those people who have only seen jerky, hackneyed, corny magicians –
I encourage you to keep an open mind. There are some real artists in our field
who, by employing the craft of deception, can convey feelingful responses to
their audiences impossible through any other art. Not better, perhaps. But as
I wish you luck in having such an encounter.
It is precisely because I want people to have peak artistic experiences through
magic that I care deeply about how the distribution of information impacts
those experiences. Because of the unique deceptive and illusionary elements of
magic, exposure to “the secrets” (insert spooky OOOOO here) changes those
I do not believe that merely telling people how a magic trick works leads
people to a greater appreciation of magic, nor do I believe it makes it easier
for them to have a deep, artistic experience of magic. In fact, I think it
often makes it harder for them to enjoy magic as fully or deeply. And yes,
while some may wish to ponder the puzzles and decipher the deceptions, keeping
the secrets maintains the fun for everyone. (I also think focusing on “how to” often
reinforces an unneeded, and unwarranted adversarial relationship in a magic
I do not fault anyone for writing a blog post about magic, or selling a book
about magic (assuming that information isn’t someone else’s proprietary material).
But I do not always believe that a book about magic, by virtue of its existence,
is good for magic or for the people who want to get close to it. It was my
desire to contradict claims that all exposure is good for magic. That turned
into a heated discussion, but if you knew what kind of guy that Widdle fellow
is . . . .well, I digress.
I got into magic because of how it made me feel. I wanted more of that feeling.
I wanted to have it whenever I wanted it!
Here’s the thing. The moment you begin studying magic, all of those feelings
start to disappear. Knowing “how” makes it almost impossible to recapture that
depth of feeling, that feeling when that which you know is impossible occurs undeniably
in your presence. The deeper you get into magic, the further away she runs.
Now, don’t get weepy for me. The old feelings are replaced with new ones. You
appreciate a clever line, new premise, or an updated method – but none of that
can compare to the feeling of MAGIC. (Spoiler Alert: there’s a promised land
over the hill and around the corner, but we need not go there yet.)
The important take away from this is that magicians don’t keep our secrets to
protect us. We keep them to protect YOU.
Protecting an audience’s experience is important to me. To that end I think discussing
the impact of exposing people to information is important. You got a peek into
how heated and passionate magicians can be about the art they love. I hope you
will give us the benefit of the doubt, and trust that we are just a bunch of
passionate humans who share an, albeit, quirky interest that we care about
deeply. But, like a lot of internet forum people, I can be caustic and
aggressive especially when discussing what I love - - -and especially when
having to deal with that a-hole Widdle!!!
Darn you Widdle!!!
If you think you might like magic, or just enjoy getting an insider’s view of unusual
“things”, check out the magic documentary Our Magic, by R. Paul Wilson and
Jason England. It’s takes an in depth look at magic from a number of different
perspectives. They also did a series of videos featuring the magicians who are
presented in the movie. Perhaps someone can link to those if that sort of thing
Thanks and it was nice to meet you all.
(P.S. you can of course make the card trick I teach on the video by gluing five
cards together. It’s not meant to be a show stopper, but I bet the more
charming of you can use it to win a free drink every now and then! Enjoy!)
Yes indeed. Poor old Widdle on the Genii Forum is quite misguided. Still, we must forgive him for he knows not how he has sinned. Come to think of it neither do the rest of you. Magic is supposed to be a secret art after all. Still, since you all seem to be interested in the subject and since I am terribly interested in me (most magicians have massive egos, after all) may I direct you to two of my blogs.
Here is my main blog. It talks a lot about my work as a magician but I am afraid there is no exposure of magic tricks. You will have to go to a disgraceful blog called boingboing or something in order to find out how all the tricks are done. Anywhere here is my blog where you will see wondrous videos of me performing:
My second blog is more orientated to magic at trade shows. Companies sometimes hire magicians to draw crowds to their booths and incorporate magic into their presentations. Sometimes they even give away tricks like the one Brad showed in his video away to the attendees as free gifts. Horror of horrors and don’t tell people on the Genii forum about this wickedness. Another very valuable service trade show magicians offer is they incorporate the company sales messages into the tricks they do. Anyway my blog will explain all this. After all there might be some company executive on this website who might book me for their trade show and that will prove that boingboing is of some use after all. I bet the Genii members never thought of that! Anyway here you all are. Enjoy.
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